Jumuah lecture on Friday 15 February 2019 by Brother Bashier Rahim at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
If one should do a Google search on the term “success in life” then one will find over 1.4 billion results for this term with millions of articles written about this subject as it is an issue that intrigues the human mind.
And when you dig deeper you realize that we all accept that we only have 24 hours in a day and an average lifespan of 70 to 80 years and we are all searching for the secret to achieve exponentially greater returns for every hour in the day than any other average person is achieving. In other words, in the same amount of time, successful people achieve very different and greater results.
That is how we see that in the business world for example, out of a class of students that might study finance with the hope that they will become super rich, you find that some drop outs whom you least expect to get anywhere in life actually became much wealthier and today many such people are among the wealthiest people in the world in a material sense because they discovered how to get much more out of a 24 hour day than others.
Or you may find that in Islamic seminaries that among thousands of students who enter the seminaries over the years, that a very small group become Mujtahids or go further and become Maraa’ji while others achieve nominal knowledge comparatively.
Or you may find that someone has political aspirations to become the President of a country and puts all his or her effort into it but ends up humiliated, whereas someone who has no aspirations of becoming a political leader manages to lead and establish something like the Iranian Revolution that continues to survive after 40 years despite most of the powerful world standing against it which by regular calculations should have destroyed them a long time ago.
When Imam Khomeini was travelling back to Iran from France during these days in 1979, a journalist asked him whether he thought his revolution would be successful. And his simple reply was “I don’t know”. Then he said “you are asking me the incorrect question. What you should be asking me is whether I did my work and to such a question I will answer yes I did”.
All of these examples and many more should make it clear to us that in the journey to achieve success in life which is a subject that billions of people are interested in, the end result is not determined by adding together a number of material causes like putting in all your material effort of physically working hard and investing your material resources, but rather there is something more which is not material in nature which ultimately results in your success.
It is a spiritual element that we often ignore or are oblivious about and we simply continue going about working hard almost 18 hours a day in the hope of success but ignoring this spiritual element which is a key ingredient.
TAWFEEQ FROM ALLAH IS SOURCE OF SUCCESS
That spiritual element that is the source of our success is something called “Tawfeeq” which comes from Almighty Allah. And this Tawfeeq is something that we seek and need from Almighty Allah for every moment of our life because if we do not have it then we are ultimately heading for failure.
In a well known dua of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) he asks Almighty Allah:
اللّهُـمَّ رَحْمَتَـكَ أَرْجـوفَلا تَكِلـني إِلى نَفْـسي طَـرْفَةَ عَـيْن
“O Allah, I hope for Your mercy. Do not leave me to myself even for the blinking of an eye (i.e. a moment)”
Do we realize what happens if we are left by our selves just for a moment or a split second?
In recent weeks a young Muslim person was drag racing at over 300km/h on the N1 highway and a video was recorded of himself supposedly winning the race which would give people like that the feeling of great success or ultimate success. But when for a split second he put his phone down or whatever it is that happened, he lost concentration – just for a split second – what happened to him? He crashed his expensive car of hundreds of thousands of rands and lost his 2 legs in the process and is lucky to be alive.
If this is the possible impact of not paying attention to yourself just for a moment, do we understand this dua of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) – we don’t want Almighty Allah to leave us even for a moment to ourselves as it will result in disaster.
STORY OF PEOPLE OF PROPHET SHUAIB (A.S)
In one sense or meaning, “Wifaaq” means “coming together or coming closer to each other”. In the Quran we see the use of the term in this sense to mean “reconciliation”.
So when 2 marital parties want to reconcile or come closer to each other again after experiencing some separation from each other, Allah grants them Tawfeeq to do so.
We see this usage in Surah Nisaa Verse 35:
إِن يُرِيدَا إِصْلاَحًا يُوَفِّقِ اللّهُ بَيْنَهُمَا
“If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will effect it between them”.
Notice that Allah grants the Tawfeeq!
Then besides reconciliation, the term Tawfeeq is also used in the story of Prophet Shuaib (a.s) and this is what I wish to focus on today.
Prophet Shuaib (a.s) was very special as he had the responsibility of training Prophet Musa (a.s) who was his son in law and among the Ulul Azam Prophets (5 major Prophets).
He was sent to the people of Madyan whose major shortcoming was idol worshipping in that they worshipped a large tree as well as being dishonest in business dealings in fraudulently giving people less than what they paid for when they sold something and taking more than what they paid for when they purchased something. They did this in a cunning manner such that people did not realize what they did.
And furthermore they were committing highway robbery by ambushing the trade caravans that passed them and forcing them to pay a sort of clearance fee to get past.
Now among the early Prophets, some of them are credited with inventing certain things, like Prophet Idrees (a.s) is known to be the first tailor who manufactured stitched clothing.
Prophet Shuaib (a.s) is credited with inventing the scale with which to measure the weight of things to ensure accuracy and justice in our financial dealings.
In the case of the people of Madyan, in their search for financial success through fraudulent means, they ended in a unique disaster.
That is because just like the case with many other Prophets, his people belied him and wanted to torture him when they rejected his advise and were eventually destroyed in a unique way.
In the case of the rejecters of other Prophets, the Quran seems to refer to their destruction in one way through various once off extreme phenomena, like the people who rejected Prophet Nuh (a.s) were drowned by the flood, or Phirown and his army were drowned by the sea, or the people of other Prophets were destroyed by hurricanes, etc.
But the disaster that befell the rejecters of Prophet Shuaib (a.s) was a triple interrelated disaster that destroyed them instead of one punishment. The Quran says that they were destroyed by:
– “a shriek” which (we understand from narrations) caused an extreme unbearable blazing heat wave. Even when they went into their underground cool basements they could not escape this unbearable heat
– and then they all came out of their unbearable hot houses when they saw a dark cloud and rushed to gather under it waiting for rain to cool them down and grant them relief but it started raining bolts of fire onto them instead
– and then an earthquake came and they were all finally eliminated from the face of the earth without a trace remaining.
That was for rejecting the guidance that offered them Tawfeeq from Almighty Allah which is the source of our success.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS TAWFEEQ?
Tawfeeq is when all the elements required for success comes together. What does the term Tawfeeq have to do with the story of Prophet Shuaib (a.s)?
In Surah Hud Verse 88 we read:
قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِن كُنتُ عَلَي بَيّنَةٍ مِن رَبّي وَرَزَقَنِي مِنْهُ رِزْقاً حَسَناً وَمَآ اُرِيدُ أَنْ اُخَالِفَكُمْ إِلَي مَآ أَنْهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ إِنْ اُرِيدُ إِلاَّ الإِصْلاَحَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ وَمَا تَوْفِيقِي إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ اُنِيبُ
He said, “O my people, have you considered: if I am upon clear evidence from my Lord and He has provided me with a good provision from Him…? And I do not intend to differ from you in that which I have forbidden you; I only intend reform as much as I am able. And my success is not but through Allah. Upon him I have relied, and to Him I return.”
Prophet Shuaib (a.s) is saying that his guidance and rizq (provision) comes from Allah. At the time originally the people of Prophet Shuaib (a.s) were also doing well through normal legitimate financial dealings. So Prophet Shuaib (a.s) wishes that they reform and thus return to that pure way of living.
And he then says that his success (Tawfeeq) or the coming together of all the elements needed for success which in their case was the question of financial success – the Tawfeeq for this is ONLY from Allah.
This is critical to understand!
You need Tawfeeq from Allah for real success in your studies.
You need Tawfeeq from Allah for real success in your business or work life.
You need Tawfeeq from Allah for real success in your political life.
You need Tawfeeq from Allah for real success in your Dawah and propagation activities.
You need Tawfeeq from Allah for success in your spiritual life. How many times don’t we listen to the most inspiring lecture on Tawba but we don’t make Tawba. Or listen to the most inspiring lecture on always making salaah on time at the beginning of the waqt but we just don’t get down to doing it consistently. It’s because we don’t have Tawfeeq from Almighty Allah to do it.
HOW TO ACHIEVE TAWFEEQ
While Tawfeeq is ultimately from Almighty Allah, we also have a role in its preliminaries to qualify for it to come to us and to increase or decrease this Tawfeeq. It’s not a matter completely out of our control. So what are these?
Firstly in the story of Prophet Shuaib (a.s) we learn that we need a good intention with respect to the matter for which we seek success. Prophet Shuaib (a.s) is quoted as saying:
إِنْ اُرِيدُ إِلاَّ الإِصْلاَحَ
“I only intend reform”
He had a pure intention that was not self consuming but for the benefit of his people.
According to the Quran, hypocrites also desire reform. Like we read in Quran:
“When it is said to them do not commit mischief in the earth, they say “We are only reformists”. But the reality is that they do not have a pure intention and actually do mischief.
If we get this point then we got the essence of this topic that among the critical preliminaries to for Tawfeeq is to have a pure intention.
Secondly in the story of Prophet Shuaib (a.s) we learn that we need to put all our effort into the matter for which we seek success.
إِنْ اُرِيدُ إِلاَّ الإِصْلاَحَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ
“I only intend reform as much as I am able”
Laziness won’t bring one success. Often all we desire is position and status in society with no intention of doing the hard work to achieve success and expect others to do the hard work. Put all your own effort and resources at your disposal into the matter for which you seek success.
Thirdly realise that after my good intention and exhausting all my effort that success ultimately comes from Almighty Allah.
وَمَا تَوْفِيقِي إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ
“And my success is not but through Allah”. That’s why Imam Khomeini said I don’t know if the revolution will be successful as he fully realized that Tawfeeq comes from Allah.
Then fourthly and fifthly place your reliance on Allah and always return to Him.
عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَإِلَيْهِ اُنِيبُ
“Upon Him I have relied and to Him I return”.
These are some of the preliminaries that we require for receiving Tawfeeq that we learn from the story of Prophet Shuaib (a.s).
ADDITIONAL FACTORS IN ACHIEVING TAWFEEQ
So in addition to the preliminary factors for success I mentioned earlier, there are various other things that one can do that increases our chances for success. These include:
– making dua
– performing salaah on time
– performing Tahajjud salaah
– kindness to parents
– maintaining family relations
In Surah Layl there are verses which Ulama interpret to be actions which increase or decrease our Tawfeeq or success from Almighty Allah.
In Verses 5 to 7 of Surah Layl we read:
فَأَمَّا مَن أَعْطَى وَاتَّقَى
“As for he who gives and fears Allah
And believes in the best [reward]
We will enable for him to a state of ease”.
The very first point mentioned really requires our focus. If we want success in anything in life, we need the culture of giving.
And giving is on one hand in a material sense in the form of charity to the extent we can.
But giving is also to give of yourself. To give our time is very important. To realise that success in my studies or business or politics or dawah requires a culture of giving from ourselves and not just our resources. This is an area that we forever limited by. We have infrastructure to achieve great things, but while there are human resources available, we need to give much more of ourselves if we want Tawfeeq to achieve much more great things.
And then is the issue of Taqwa and positive belief in the Hereafter and its system of reward.
And then there are actions of ours that causes failure instead of success, though we seem to think it contributes to success.
In Verses 8 to 10 of Surah Layl we read:
وَأَمَّا مَن بَخِلَ وَاسْتَغْنَى
“But as for he who is stingy/miserly and considers himself free of need
And denies the best [reward],
We will enable him toward difficulty”
Stinginess, not giving of oneself, being arrogant, denying the system of reward of the year after makes it easy to land up in difficulty, tribulations and eventual failure.
RESPECT TOWARDS TEACHERS INCREASES TAWFEEQ
I said earlier that one of the actions that contributes to our success is kindness to our parents. And in the category of parents, our teachers are considered to be our parents too. And they are considered even more important than the high status that our biological parents have. That’s because our biological parents give us physical life whereas our teachers give us spiritual life.
In South Africa for a long time now, we have built a generation of disrespectful brats who think they are untouchable and can say and do to their teachers as they please.
They physically taunt and abuse their teachers, verbally abuse their teachers, they have complete disregard for their teachers, they make the life of a teacher unbearable and when incidents of a teacher slapping a learner surfaces then we up in arms without looking at the full picture or even considering what right our teachers have over us and the fact that disrespect towards our teachers sets us up for failure in life.
Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) says the following in Risalatul Huquq on the rights of the one who trains you in knowledge:
“The right of the one who trains you (sa’is) through knowledge is magnifying him, respecting his sessions, listening well to him, and attending to him with devotion. You should not raise your voice toward him. You should never answer anyone who asks him about something, in order that he may be the one who answers. You should not speak to anyone in his session nor speak ill of anyone with him. If anyone ever speaks ill of him in your presence, you should defend him. You should conceal his faults and make manifest his virtues. You should not sit with him in enmity or show hostility toward him in friendship”.
Where are we when it comes to our behaviour towards our teachers?
Let me conclude with a story about the practical life of our great scholars and how they behave towards their teachers.
Sheikh Shomali narrates a story in one of his Akhlaq lectures about a great scholar Ayatullah Hassan Zadeh Amuli who is still alive and a master of all the Islamic sciences and spiritual path. And there is really a great deal to speak about this great scholar.
Now he is great because he was blessed to have had numerous great teachers. He narrates that one day he was sitting in the company of his teacher whom he felt had a great right over him due to having benefited so much from his knowledge. He was sitting very close to his teacher and was sitting on the floor on his knees like when you sit in Tashahud position while his teacher was sitting opposite him cross legged.
And while in that position he suddenly quickly went down and kissed his teacher’s foot.
His teacher immediately responded “why did you do that” as he did not like it.
So Ayatullah Hassan Zadeh Amuli responded by saying that his teacher had so much right over him and he felt unworthy of kissing his teacher’s hand and so he kissed his foot.
And this Ayatullah says when his teacher died, at the Janazah he assisted in carrying his body and was carrying it at the side of his feet. And in that condition he felt he wanted to kiss his teacher’s feet again but did not do it as he was concerned that people would not understand what he was doing.
This respect for your teacher is a great source of Tawfeeq and success in life.